Engine of rural economy – water
Water plays an important role in economy especially in the rural economy; the whole of life revolves around water. In fact even in ancient times civilizations were born on its basins. Even today in this modern world (so called advancement and civilized environment) the rural India is untouched by the advancements but badly hampered by mechanization, especially usage of bore well for irrigation which has resulted in depletion of ground water. Lakes and tanks have dried up, open wells have become thing of past, the bore wells started getting deeper from few hundred feet to several hundreds of feet, and still in vain as there was no guarantee of water both in terms of volume or quality.
Long and never ending queues for potable water
Rural India is completely dependent on Agriculture and allied activities for which water is the life line. From grain production to animal rearing without adequate water it becomes nonexistent. Motorized bore wells sucking ground water for irrigating cash crops and extensive usage of chemicals and pesticides resulted in poor soil condition and contaminated surroundings. Joblessness, underemployment, migration and exploitation were direct effects of water shortage. Even potable drinking water becomes challenging. Its shame to note that in rural parts our villagers get potable drinking water once in 15 days, of course much would depend on power availability, functioning of motor etc., life is nothing but frustration and chaos.
On the other hand our rivers started getting dammed promising power production and irrigation to less fortune areas and more importantly to provide drinking water to urban areas. Wherever the irrigation facilities were provided farmers started to migrate to cash crops with limitless usage of chemicals and pesticides as hybrid seeds used asked for more and more each time.
Minor irrigation system became the messiah which replenished the soil to grow cash crops with huge input cost having no control on the production cost also the Indian agricultural marketing system did not provide any cushion or descent support price on which agrarian community could survive. In many parts farmers had only one way to profit, by selling their land into the booming real estate market and cashing out of life. In the absence of booming real estate or in rural areas they had no option but to sell their land to activities such as mining or dump yard for mining activities taking place in the nearby areas.
Despite all, the condition of ground water did not get any better, rather became worse to the extent that only irrigation can provide water for farming, thus dependency on the local administration, government policy, monsoon, inter-state disputes started playing key factors on agricultural production and rural livelihood. This has pushed migration of families from rural India to cities looking for green pastures, rather daily bread.
Filling of tanks using dam water
In this background, I wish to share story of a small hamlet situated about 50 kms from Mysore which has been classified as dry land (being blessed as rain shadow area) as no irrigation system existed, tanks and bore wells going dry virtually making life impossible to live. During the recent Government initiative of providing water for irrigation, they started to fill few tanks which were running dry for the past 3 decades.
After few years of laying infrastructure to fill lakes and tanks, finally this year since we have extremely good monsoon and good reservoir level this piece of land started to receive water and the joy in that village had no bound. They all started visualizing golden era ahead of them. Yes lots of expectations have started building up. Typically farmers would grow millets, vegetables and cereals in this part which they also consumed, now with irrigation in place farmers would migrate to cash crops such as paddy and sugarcane which promises from outside better profitability, but in reality end up striking and protesting asking for reasonable support price from the system, which it never provides.
In this village the water is flowing beyond the bund after nearly 3 decades. The villagers are confused as to what to do with flowing water and started engaging themselves cleaning their two wheelers, and dreaming to grow cash crops to shove away all their miseries.
By passers engaged in washing vehicles
If mankind is the enemy of the world, he is the only hope too. If our action towards nature resulted in total disharmony in rural economy, only our prudent agricultural policy and sustainable agricultural practice can improve quality of life in rural India, right from the choice of produce to production methodologies and marketing support system can empower farmer rather than exploit.
Tanks over flowing after after 3 decades attracting villagers from all over